I have a new bike in the quiver and she’s an odd bird, one I never thought I’d invest in. I’m now the proud owner of a 29er, specifically the EWR Ti-motion 29er.
Like most of you I’ve been curious, to say the least, to test out a 29er. The hype has been that they outperform 26” wheel bikes. Most people who have made the switch say they will never go back. Last summer I (briefly) demoed a GT Zaskar 29er on two lift assisted runs at The Canyons in Utah. I walked away impressed.
The bike was quick and handled amazing, well beyond my expectations. I returned from this trip with this grandiose idea of selling off my 6” travel carbon, high tech, XTR full squishy and replacing it with a 29er hardtail. It took me long enough, but I finally built up a raw Titanium EWR with working man’s parts (rat rod style). My new rig weighs in at 26lbs (with tubes and pedals). This bike could easily be built lighter.
My first ride was in not so favorable conditions, just like each ride since. This season the woods are greasy on the east with roots that are dripping in green slime. Even so, what I noticed immediately was an increase in traction thanks to the larger tire to surface contact patch. The larger tire also gives fair warning if it’s about to break loose and spin out unlike a 26” tire that just bloodies your knee into the shifter before you can do a thing about it.
The gains in traction are also noticeable when cornering. The tires hook up like mad in the turns and give plenty of warning when you’re pushing hard. The big tires drift long before you get pitched! This sensation, as you can imagine, inspires confidence!
A 29er is not necessarily faster than a 26er. It’s only faster if you can keep it spinning. Let me try and explain: The big wheels must be brought up to speed and that takes slightly more effort, but once up to speed they roll faster than a smaller wheel. The catch is this: you need to keep the wheels spinning. This riding “style” may not suite certain riders.
29ers are wonderful and faster if you ride wide open. A rider who is constantly on the brakes will not recognize or reap the rewards of an increase in speed. However, the 29er wheel will roll over the lumps and bumps better than a 26er which a novice rider will appreciate! Speed demons will not notice the rolling over benefit since pinners jump the lumps never riding through them.
I was able to run much higher psi in both tires since the tires get so much traction. I’m at over 50 psi at the moment even in early season East Coast mud! The harder tires are faster and less likely to flat, but they do ride hard as a rock. The Titanium frame absorbs some, but Ti seems to ride more similar to alloy than 4130. This is my first Ti bike and I expected a softer ride, but EWR built this bike for racers. I’ll take the stiff responsive ride over a spongy wet noodle any day.
The bottom line is this: Consider a 29er if you’re an experienced rider who likes to ride fast or if you’re a newbie with guts that’s chasing down your bro’s who have been riding forever and if you race XC/marathon events. All I know is my new Ti-motion is a keeper for sure and I like that it already looks old!
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